Saturday, April 30, 2011

A sure way to get hits: Post a photo of your pet

She was the dog from hell but now she's mellowed (and that's relative term because she's still hyper) after we house trained her.  She's still very feisty.  She's actually Rose's pet.  And Mimi thinks I'm her servant... I exist simply to provide for her needs.  I learn about theology from this dog.  I confess that I treat my Maker the same way that this dog treats me.  Thank God for His patience.

Secret to Rose's Fruit Bowl

Ingredients: Strawberries, blueberries, a colorful fruit bowl, husband with lots of toys (ie. cameras and lenses)
  • Wash strawberries and blue berries
  • Slice strawberries with clean knife
  • Place strawberries and blueberries in a nice colorful bowl
  • Sprinkle sugar on fruit while still moist
  • Place in a clean table 
  • Have husband take a picture of the fruit bowl
  • Tell husband what a wonderful man she married
  • Ask husband for permission to go to mall later

Friday, April 29, 2011

Don't Stand Close to Me

Young teacher, the subject
Of schoolgirl fantasy
She wants him so badly
Knows what she wants to be
Inside her there's longing
This girl's an open page
Book marking - she's so close now
This girl is half his age
Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me
(Don't Stand Close to Me, Police)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Touch Me

Come on, come on, come on
Come on now touch me, baby
Can't you see that I am not afraid?
What was that promise that you made?
Why won't you tell me what she said?
What was that promise that you made?

Now, I'm gonna love you
Till the heavens stop the rain
I'm gonna love you
Till the stars fall from the sky for you and I
(Touch Me, Doors)

Yesterday morning, I took the camera out for a spin.  I have been thinking of this flower bed all this week.  It’s the one outside of the office where I work.  It was windy but the wind was no match for the camera’s shutter speed of 1/4000.
Yet, the image is not perfect. I looked back to examine this image and it bugs the heck out of me that there's a small area in the petal that's blown up.  I thought about fixing it in PS but then I hesitated... asking myself, why?  This is what the camera captured.  Why should I alter the image?  I asked myself, would that change my vision?  No, I don't think so.  Would it matter to the ordinary viewer?  Probably not.  Would it gratify my ego that I felt like I captured the perfect floral?  Definitely not... if so then I would just be fooling myself.  What is it that makes us go back and re-do what we did?  Perhaps, we care more about our egos and what people say.  Is it so?  No, I think I'm just trying to complicate things as always.

Featured Comments:

First look: Come slide down my petal-wheeeee! A vision of Alice in Wonderland.
Second look: This petal is welcoming you to come in and see what is inside.
Beautiful, thank you for sharing. - R

OMG – I have been admiring those flowers for the past few days. Aren’t they pretty? Your picture captures their beauty….way to go. There’s also some pretty flowers on a bush by the door (same area of the yellow poppies). They remind me of butterflies. I never thought about egos & photos but your notes reminded me – one time Steve was taking a picture of a rose (Buchart Gardens in Canada) & he spit on it – photo ended up looking like morning dew..don’t tell anyone (ha ha).  - j

Beautiful, and yes it’s wonderful just the way it is. I think you and I are too deep for our own good sometimes. - p

Nice shot Rob – it’s like that one petal came down to let you see what’s inside! And I like that hint of yellow breaking thru the pod… - S


I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm *
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm going to try an' get my soul free

We are stardust

We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
(Woodstock, Joni Mitchell)

Last Saturday I discovered a field of wild flowers that was just a stone's throw away from the house.  I was able to get plenty of flower shots with my long lens but my favorite is not a flower.

Featured Comment:  This image brings me back to our good, old country towards the end of the calendar year when the cold breeze offers a silver-toned melody that only dreamers could hear. What is it? a rice stalk? so simple... but very capable of awakening this unsuspecting individual to yet another layer of blissful adventure.... Oooohhh, I sure could enjoy this sweet reverie, because the heavy workload is done, tax deadline is finally over... - aU

Monday, April 25, 2011

Growing Up

London calling, now don't look to us
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing
(London Calling, Clash)

A tender love a father has

May the Lord bless you, my friend.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story

I write this because I have been observing a certain pattern on how people view art.

In my mind, this is a continuation of my thoughts about capturing people in their candid moments.  (See Bitterblue.)  In this picture, one can imagine that the ladies are grilling the gentleman with tons of questions and complaints.  The woman on the right looks very concerned.  What was it that she was concerned about?  The man's eyes are closed as though trying to process everything that he is hearing.  Notice too the slight smirk on the woman in the middle.  What is she thinking?  It looks as though she's getting quite a satisfaction from this whole transaction. Was this what really happened?  I don't really know even though I was there.  As an amateur photographer, my concentration was focused in getting the right exposure and composition.  What attracted me to this scene was that it looked like it had a good story, whatever that may be.  It didn't matter for me what it was.  I felt that I could fill in the blanks later on depending on how the picture comes out. And if I could put myself in that imaginative mindset, I know others will as long as the picture is dramatic enough to draw emotion.  This is to me the magic of photography that I really like.

In my previous post, I refused to pigeonhole photography in the field of journalism.  It doesn't have to be representationally true.  If we are to consider photography as art, then its purpose can be also symbolic.  If we can see that art can go beyond representation, then I think we do not have to agree with the agenda of the artist yet appreciate the artwork at face value.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I gave my last chance to you
Don't hand it back to me bitterblue
(Bitterblue, Cat Stevens)

Yes, I've got my reasons and to me they're all true,
and I wouldn't change them, not even for you.
(Mona Bone Jakon, Cat Stevens)

For me, one of the most rewarding activities in photography is capturing people in their candid moments.  Their fences are down so you really get to see a snapshot of their inner lives.  We get a better feel of their environment even though the story that the photograph conveys may perhaps be a collaborative creation between the photographer and the audience.  We may not know the entire story but it doesn't matter for we can be satisfied thinking falsely that we do get it... that yea we understand what the picture is saying. This sort of snapshot depiction can be uncomfortably controversial for some.  Others believe that we should be true - and by this I mean representationally true - to what was captured at he moment.  Perhaps, this is why some critics do not even consider photography to be in the realm of art.  Some critics will insists that photography belongs in the field of journalism.  Why do people think this way?  I don't think I have been able to figure it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Intangible Moment

What people are saying about this artwork:
  • Do I need new glasses?
  • I have been having a terrible time with my right eye and this picture; right away I see a blurry picture. If the close my right eye I may be able to see those pretty yellow daisies.
  • (Uh)...okay?
  • (dead silence)
  • This would make a great background.
  • You're kidding, right?
  • My 6 year-old can take a better picture than that.
  • Is this the latest trend in photography?
  • Grandma can take a better picture than that.
  • Reminds me of my Diana. Lomo on.
But I save the best for last:
  • At first glance, you see a universal subject. It brings familiarity to the continuance of daily encounter to the point of considering it insipid. However, simultaneously catching a glance, a timid palpitation ensues. Thank you for graciously turning this opportune time away from unwelcome skepticism we harbor within.... good day... aU

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Post-processed with Channel Blending:

Thanks to Tony for the PS tip.
 Before processing:

I guess I need new glasses.

Featured Comment:  Oh yes red!!!  shades of red, tints of red, Chinese red, Morocco red, Congo red, Venetian red, Indian ocher, aniline red, even aurora red.  In a meadow painted in gold through a profusion of wild and fiery California poppies, asserting itself you find this delightful hyacinth red, struggling to find its place, certainly it made a damn good difference.  Made my day, much obliged....  - aU

For the techies:  Taken at iso 100 using a tripod with a 50mm lens at f/16 aperture. I also attached an extension tube so I can get real close to the flower.

The shot was made outdoor using an off-camera flash (the camera was connected to the flash with an external cord) hand-pointed directly at the flower. It must have been less than three inches away from the flower. The ambient has low light so I took advantage of that. I deliberately set the camera at 1/100 shutter to under-expose the background. (Generally, the exposure would require more than 1 or 2 seconds to get the right exposure.) With the flash directed at a certain angle, it will only hit the flower and not the background, rendering the background almost black but not he flower. I tweaked the contrast in post processing to get the background entirely black.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Samba pa ti

Another one for you.


For Rose.  Cheers.

Addendum (updated April 19, 2011):  Taken at iso 100 using a tripod with a 50mm lens at f/16 aperture.  I also attached an extension tube so I can get real close to the flowers.

The shot is a combination of long exposure and the off-camera flash.  I use a black cardboard as background in the vase shot.  The cardboard is sized so that the camera viewfinder sees it entirely – no more no less.  I fired a diffused strobe behind the cardboard to get some highlights on the rim of the glass.  The flowers were exposed at 30 seconds.  Synching the flash with the camera is not essential as long as you fire the flash within the 30 second-window.  So the external cord is really not required for this shot.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wild Thing

In my mind the very concept of art is inherently incompatible with competition. Art represents the sensibilities of the artist, their personal taste, their connection with the subject, and as the case may be: their genius. There is never a guarantee that these will resonate with the public, or with a small group of judges from varying backgrounds and with their own sensibilities which may be wholly different from those of the artist.  – Guy Tal

Addendum (updated April 21, 2011):

Wild make my heart sing...

You make everything
I said wild thing...

Wild thing, I think I love you
But I wanna know for sure
Come on, hold me tight
I love you

If there is any song that influenced me, this may be it.  It  still resonates in my head.  Arguably, Wild Thing transcends generation barriers.  Written during the hippie movement; covered by Jimi Hendrix; a must-learn song if you’re planning to form a Punk band; inspired rapper Tone-Loc to compose his masterpiece; a classic riff equal to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Okay, I’m just kidding. 

But I had to chase the hippie after he plucked the petal missing from my flower.

Laid back and I don't give a damn.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I got a woman

Life Magazinephotographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was fond of recounting. Eisenstaedt, whom many considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, was at the opening of a retrospective show of his work at a major museum.

A man and his teenage son approached and asked, "Excuse me, Mr. Eisenstaedt, but what kind of camera do you use?"

"A Leica, usually," Eisenstaedt replied.

"Son, I’m going to buy you a Leica," the man declared, "so you can take pictures as good as Mr. Eisenstaedt’s."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tea for...

Lo-fi Camera – the beginning of my photographic journey

I think the first time I used a camera was around 1978.  It was a Diana.  It was marketed as a toy camera because all the parts were made of plastics including the optics.  I think my girlfriend at that time pitched in so we could buy it.  Being still in school and unemployed, it was the cheapest we could afford.  I remember holding it and not knowing what the settings were for.  Intuitively, I think I did all right as my pictures turned out decent for the most part.  What I love about the results was that the images were dreamy.  It didn’t matter whether they were in focus or not.  Actually, they were all blurred.  But that’s the magic of the Diana.  The secret is the plastic optics. 

I don’t remember what happened to that camera.  I’ve also lost interest in photography as the film and processing were too expensive for me.  With the introduction of digital cameras, I was able to pick up photography again. 

Lensbaby – alternative to the Diana

Actually, I don’t really consider myself a photographer.  I think my images are decent but many times missing the wow- factor.  I consider myself more of an artist who happens to use photography as a medium.  So when I discovered the Lensbaby, I felt that it allowed me to express my art in the most gratifying way I could never imagined.  For almost a year a half, I shot exclusively using the LB.  I learned so much about photography by using this lo-fi lens.  It forced me to think about what I wanted to accomplish. 

The other day, I was going through some of my early photography efforts and stumbled upon my LB archive.  It made me want to use the LB again.

Blue World

Canon EOS 5d, EF 24mm

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the world, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Notes on Rocks Nondescript

Canon EOS 5d, EF 24mm, f22, ND filter
The water and rocks image was composed under the tree to even out and soften the lighten.  I used my 24mm lens set at f22 to get as much depth as I can.  In my opinion, wide angle lenses are forgiving at any aperture size.  Had this been a 50mm the sharpness would have been compromised at aperture smaller than f8.  So I think the 24mm set at small aperture has something to do with the structure of the rocks captured.  Also, I made sure that the sharpest focus was on one of the rocks (I think the middle one).  The calm water is a result of exposing at 2 seconds, which eliminated the harsh luminance bouncing from the stream.  I increased the EV to 1.3+ so I can get a longer exposure.  The image was post processed using Nik Viveza to adjust the levels and increase the structure a bit, and Nik Color Efex Pro to squeeze out the color.  As I’ve mentioned the Viveza is one that I would have if I have only one choice.  The Color Efex is superfluous but it makes editing easier.  I think I could have gotten the same results by just playing around with the RGB levels.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Street Photography Without Really Trying

Panasonic DMC-LX3, Wide Angle Adapter

When waiting at an airport gate for my flight, I would use this down time to shoot people.  The best lens are the ones on my point and shoot.  At 24mm, I can get a lot of coverage.  Also, the point and shoot looks harmless enough that nobody knows they are being photographed.  In fact, my subjects unknowingly come to me.  I don't even have to move from where I'm at.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies, oh, he don’t know, so he chases them away …
Oh, someday, yea, he’ll begin his life again… Life again, Life again… (Pearl Jam)

21st Century Perambulator... Lost in the Promenade Gallery

Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
(Nowhere Man, Lennon-McCartney)

For Tony.  Cheers.

Everyday I have the Blues

I see this poster in my cubicle everyday.  It reminds me of my dark side.

Small talk

I'm very opinionated (in my opinion) but I think I will let my photos do the talking. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Hills Are Alive

I have a great view from the office fifth floor but I hate my job.  Oh well. 

Anouncement: Just an Observer Website

This post definitely falls in the Shameless-Self Promotion Category.  If you have a chance, please visit me new website.  I would really appreciate your feedback to help me improve it.  Cheers.

Somewhere... there's a fool on the hill

Alone on a hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still

I am fortunate to have an office space on the fifth floor.  There I have access to two great views.  On the southern side, I can see hills and hills, which is kind of cool.  But on the northern side I see the mountains, the hills and  the freeway.  On a non-typical day, usually after the rain, the scenery is gorgeous.  Such is like this one.

Having said that I still feel that I hate my job.

Friday, April 08, 2011

8 no 9 Reasons Why This Image Failed

Going home last night, I was able to take this shot at the office parking lot. It fails for a number of reasons:

  1. It was raining and I was getting wet making this shot and I didn’t have an umbrella.
  2. Even if I have an umbrella I probably won’t be able to use it.
  3. I should have an assistant holding an umbrella but I don’t.
  4. I have my camera with me always but I have my ND filter parked on the lens (from shooting water streams the other day). So when I removed it my lens got wet from the rain.
  5. There are actually two rainbows (if you look hard enough you may be able to see a glimmer of the other one, which should be at the right of this rainbow.) I only got one rainbow on my shot.
  6. I may have been able to get a better capture of the colors of the rainbow if I have my Graduated ND filter. I actually have it in my bag but my lens was already wet by the time I realized I needed it. And the rainbows were fast disappearing.
  7. I could have shot multiple images and employ HDR in post processing but in order to do a decent HDR I needed my tripod, which was back in my car. I didn’t want to fetch it and risk losing the rainbow.
  8. In the original shot, the background was washed out from the gray clouds. I tweaked the colors in post processing to bring out some colors in the clouds but in doing that it turned purple. (Maybe that’s not a bad thing.)
  9. There's this lens flare in the center of the image that I didn't notice until I posted this.

Hope you still like this botched shot. Cheers.

Featured Comments (for the benefit of others to know and for pursuing a shameless self-promotion):

What is this "I SHOULDS" ??? Its Friday and you should be prepared and be glad. Anyway, where's the rainbow?? - Sister L

Yea, it’s Friday and I was instructed to work tomorrow. I really hate my new job. I will kill myself tonight. Just kidding about killing myself. I may kill somebody instead. I’m not kidding about hating my job. - Rob

If this is a botched shot, I can’t wait to see your masterpiece. This is amazing, as usual. How did you get such a great shot of the lot without any cars getting in your way??? That’s great. - Rachel

Rachel, this place is close to where the Earthquake hit big. The tsunami washed out all the cars. Just kidding.- Rob

Wow I couldn’t come up with 8 reasons why the image failed. It looks great to me. The sky is a bit unbelievable but still stunning. I think it’s pretty amazing that you don’t see any parked cars around so that’s a good thing. Someone sent me two shots of yesterday’s rainbow that they took from their phone and they look nothing like yours, so that’s a good thing. The green on the pavement almost looks like grass which makes it seem as if the moment is somewhere in between reality and fantasy. The cracks on the pavement almost look like small mounds of grass. I think I’m going to forward your pic to the person who sent me their pic. They said they wished they had a better camera when the caught the rainbow. - L

My colleagues saw the beautiful rainbow last night (it was a full one). I was going to ask you if you saw it and possibly got a shot – you didn’t surprise me when I saw this. [p.s. Your image did not fail.] - j

Wow! Glad you decided not to go back to your car for the tripod! That shot is fantastic, great job. You really are incredibly talented, you know?!!!! - P

Monday, April 04, 2011

The line is thinly drawn between joy and sorrow

So I'll continue to continue to pretend
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend
With the rainfall.
(Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall, Simon and Garfunkel)

The song still resonates in my head. Perhaps from musings on last week’s floral photos. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the song… probably decades. And in listening it brought back myriads of memories. Some pleasant. Some not. I seem to recall in first hearing the song my reaction: This is deep. The poet is honest and recognizes that life is meaningless. In moving on, he pretends that life goes on. This is a brave stance. If life is meaningless, why live? Questions such as “what shall I wear today?” or “what’s for breakfast?” seem rather trivial compared to the existential question of “how then shall I live?” So it was with this mindset that I work on this image yesterday. It’s not much of a floral image… almost plain Jane to be quite frank. Even the variety of floral is typically unheralded. Not just ignored but seen as a nuisance whenever she sprouts on our concrete walkways. Yet it is those qualities that attract me to it. I can so relate to it. Hope you enjoy. Cheers.

Featured Comments:

You’re so right, these flowers grew like weeds in our yard as a kid and I remember pulling them off, blowing on the petals and then tossing the stems as though they were “meaningless” little flowers. But, perhaps, that’s where there beauty lies, in the joy they bring (aw, talk about deep, lol). I get what you’re saying about life being meaningless, but in my belief, it is. In other words, I believe it’s more about the experiences and the relationships we foster rather than what you wore or how much money you had, even though we all at some point put importance on those things. It’s good to remind ourselves, when we get overwhelmed that life really is meaningless and for me sometimes it takes the burden off. Thanks again for sharing. It’s a lovely picture. Simple, but lovely. -- R

I think the words and the possibility of the dandelion blowing away to non existence goes well with the words. -- L

Prickly!  Since I work in my garden, not as often as I would like, prickly is the word I would use.  Actually, even though the flowers life ends, it continues to give new life.  “Life cycles go round and round.”  Thank you for sharing. -- RP

I never tire of looking at dandelion puffs – I’m not sure what it is about them.  As many pictures as I’ve taken and that I’ve seen of them, each one is unique.  This one is like nature’s mandala – and I love the way the stem fades at the end, very artistic!  So I have to ask Rob – did you pull out some of the seeds or was this what was left of it?  Either way, nicely done! -- S

Now why would you think I would pull out them seeds out of innocent dandelion? (LOL)  I assure you no one was hurt in the photo op. -- Rob

read RB comments